Why Are You Still Catholic?

This is an expanded version of a piece that was first published on AlterNet.

If your softball league or your children’s school did what the Catholic Church is doing, you’d quit in outrage. So why are you still Catholic?

Catholic church
For any Catholics who might be reading this, I have a question for you:

Why are you still Catholic?

Presumably, I don’t have to tell you about the rash of child-rape scandals in the Catholic Church. I don’t have to tell you about the cover-ups, the shielding of child rapists in the priesthood from law enforcement, the deliberate shuttling of child-raping priests from town to town to protect them from exposure — thus enabling them to continue raping children. I don’t have to tell you about the Church using remote, impoverished villages as a dumping ground for priests who raped children. I don’t have to tell you that this wasn’t a few isolated incidents: it was a widespread, institutional practice, authorized by high-level Church officials. Including Cardinal Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — who, among other actions taken to protect child raping priests, delayed the dismissal of a child rapist in the priesthood… for the “good of the universal Church.”

Pope Benedict XVI
And presumably, I don’t have to tell you about the Church’s response as this scandal has been exposed. I don’t have to tell you that, overwhelmingly, they have stonewalled, rationalized, deflected blame. I don’t have to tell you about the Church’s “Come on, the kids weren’t that young, most of them were over 11” defense, or their “Hey, everyone else is doing it” defense. I don’t have to tell you how they’ve equated the accusations against the Church with anti-Semitism. I don’t have to tell you how they’ve blamed the child-rape scandal on gays, the media, the Devil , even the rape survivors themselves. (No, really. From the Bishop of Tenerife: “There are 13 year old adolescents who are under age and who are perfectly in agreement with, and what’s more wanting it, and if you are careless they will even provoke you.”) I don’t have to tell you that the Church is opposing a measure extending the statute of limitations on child rape. I don’t have to tell you about the Pope’s dismissal of the child-rapist-protection accusations as, quote, “petty gossip.”

And I’m just focusing on the child rape scandal. I’m not even talking today about the other recent scandals in the Church: the gay prostitution ring, the Church banning the use of condoms in Africa to prevent the spread of AIDS, the rape of nuns by priests and the ignoring/ concealment thereof.

You know about all of it.

So here’s what I want to ask you:

Why are you still Catholic?

If these scandals had taken place in any organization other than a religious one — would you still be part of it?

If it were your political party, your softball league, your university, your children’s school, your employer? If any of those organizations were involved in a massive, global conspiracy to protect and conceal child rapists? If they responded when the scandal came to light by entrenching and rationalizing, blaming the victims and making counter-accusations? Not in a few isolated incidents, but as a massive, institution-wide culture, a matter of official policy even, that extended throughout the organization and reached all the way to the top?

Would you still be part of it? Would you still pay your league dues and show up for softball night? Would you still pay your tuition and send your kids off to the school every day?

Or would you be walking out in moral outrage? Would you be writing enraged letters to the organization’s leadership — and sending copies of those letters to your local newspaper — explaining exactly why you can no longer be part of an organization that behaves so reprehensibly? Would you be picketing, exhorting other members to leave along with you, calling law enforcement to demand a response?

And if the latter — then why on earth aren’t you doing that with the Catholic Church?

I mean — how bad does it have to get? Let’s say I was making up a story about grotesque, nauseating, inexcusable- on- the- face- of- it evil; evil that would make all non-sociopathic people turn away in revolted horror at the very mention of it. And let’s say that, to illustrate that evil, I made up an example of a powerful, global institution that concealed and protected child rapists, shuttled them from town to town, failed to inform law enforcement officers and in many cases actually stonewalled them, deliberately dumped the child rapists in remote, impoverished villages… and then, when the horror finally came to light, responded with defensive entrenchment and equated the accusations with either anti-Semitic bigotry or petty gossip.

If I wrote that story, people would think it was over the top. “That’s ridiculous,” they’d say. “You have to make your evil more believable, more human. Nobody really does that.”

Well, people really do that.

The Church you belong to really does that.

Why on Earth are you still a part of it?

Maybe you stay because of your sincere religious faith. Maybe you sincerely believe that the Catholic Church is the only way to spiritual salvation, and that if you abandon it, you’ll abandon your hope of paradise in the Afterlife.

If that’s true, then my first question to you would be: Do you really believe that? If you disagree with the Church (as many Catholics do) on a huge number of substantial issues — birth control, gay rights, women’s rights, condom use for people with AIDS, etc., not to mention the institutional protection and cover-up of priests who rape children — then what does it mean to say that you believe in the Church?

But let’s say you’re a more traditional Catholic. Let’s say you do agree with the Church on most of these positions. All of them, even, except the one about protecting child rapists and thus perpetuating child rape. Or let’s say you are a more moderate Catholic… but that your disagreement with the Church on major theological issues still doesn’t interfere with your basic belief that the rites of the Church are necessary for your spiritual redemption.

I’d like to ask you to take a step back from your beliefs for a moment, and view them the way an outsider would. If someone else belonged to a religion that, say, protected men who torture and murder their wives; or a religion that practiced widespread fraud and theft from the desperately poor; or a religion that encouraged people to blow up buildings… would you nod sagely and say, “The sincerity of your faith is a good enough reason to stay in that religion”?

Or would you recoil in horror at how profoundly their fear of eternal punishment, and their desire for eternal reward, had bent their moral compass?

And if the latter — then why should you treat your own religion any differently? Your Church protects child rapists, thus perpetuating more child rape. Why are you still a part of it?

Catholic charities
Or maybe the religious part isn’t so important to you. Maybe you don’t have strong beliefs about Catholic theology being the only true theology. But you still defend the Church, and still participate in it, because they do charitable work that you support and want to be a part of. (An argument many people made when this piece was first published on AlterNet.)

In which case, I have to ask you:

Are you freaking kidding me?

There are thousands upon thousands of excellent charitable organizations in the world. Charitable organizations that don’t protect child rapists, in a consistent, cold-blooded, institution-wide system of covering their asses. I’ll ask you the same question I asked about your job or your softball league or your kids’ school: If any other charitable organization behaved the way the Catholic Church did — if the Red Cross or the American Cancer Society shielded child rapists from exposure and law enforcement, shuttled them from town to town so they could keep raping children, and then stonewalled and rationalized and deflected blame when they got caught — would you respond by saying, “Well, yes, sure they helped get a bunch of children raped… but look at all the good work they do! Doesn’t that count for something? Why throw the baby out with the bathwater?”

Or instead, would you abandon that organization in revulsion, demand the arrest and prosecution of everyone involved, and immediately take your money and your time to a charity that didn’t, you know, help rape children?

And maybe, again, the religious part isn’t so important to you — but you find the ritual of the Church comforting. It’s been part of your life since you were a child, your family and friends all belong, you find the music and the stained glass and the reliability of the weekly ceremony to be profoundly soothing.

If so, then I have to take a deep breath and ask you: Are you really prioritizing your own comfort over the rape of children?

Are those really and truly your priorities? Is it more important to you that you be soothed and comforted than it is to not participate in an institution that protects and conceals child rapists and actively enables them to keep doing it indefinitely? When you put the horror and the suffering and the ruined lives caused by child rape on one side of the balance — and the fact that you’re comforted by soothing rituals and pretty music on the other — do you honestly weigh those two considerations, and decide that your comfort comes out as the greater need?

And if not — if you think, as I hope you would, as I hope anyone with a shred of morality would, that your personal comfort is worth sacrificing if it means not participating in an institution that perpetuates the widespread rape of children — then why are you still part of this Church?

I don’t care whether you believe in God or not. Well, okay, that’s not true. I do care: I think religion is a mistaken idea about the world, I think that on the whole it does significantly more harm than good, and I’d love to see humanity let go of it. But if people’s religious beliefs and practices don’t hurt anyone else, then it’s their business, and I don’t really care all that much about them.

But see — that’s exactly the thing.

Belonging to the Catholic Church does hurt people.

Deliver us from evil
Belonging to the Catholic Church gives your support to an organization that conceals and protects child rapists. Again, not as a few isolated incidents, but as a massive, institution-wide culture, a matter of policy even, that extends throughout the organization and reaches all the way to the top. Belonging to the Catholic Church — giving them money, letting them count you in their rolls, sending your children to their schools — gives this behavior your personal thumbs-up, and actively enables it to continue.

As long as Catholics stay Catholics, no matter how repulsively evil the Church’s behavior becomes, no matter how many children get raped as a result of its institutional practices, then the Church is not going to change. It will have no reason to change. As long as Catholics continue to attend church, to donate money, to be counted in Church rolls, to send their children — their children! — to church and Catholic school for religious education and the perpetuation of Catholicism, then the Church will assume that it can do anything at all, with impunity. It will assume that it can… you know, I’m trying to think of an example of evil more grotesque and over-the-top than “protecting and concealing child rapists so they can go on raping children, just to protect the organization’s public image,” but I’m coming up short. It will assume that it can squander hospice donations on cocaine and hookers? Dump the Vatican’s sewage into the Rome subway system? Torture kittens in St. Peter’s Square? No. None of that is more grotesquely, over-the-top evil than protecting and concealing child rapists so they can go on raping children, just to protect the organization’s public image.

If you stay in the Catholic Church, even after this scandal, you are essentially telling them, “Go ahead and protect child rapists. I don’t care. As long as I personally get to keep taking Communion and go to Heaven when I die, whatever you do is hunky-dory with me. Your spiritual extortion — your indoctrination of the idea that I will be tortured with burning and fire for all eternity if I don’t drink your wine and eat your cracker — has worked. You can do anything at all that you like. You won’t hear a peep out of me.”

Is that really what you want to be saying?

The only way — and I mean the only way — that the Catholic Church is going to change its stance on this issue, or indeed on any issue, is if Catholics vote with their feet, and get the hell out of there.

When are you going to do that?

To leave the Catholic Church, visit the Count Me Out website, which walks you through the process.

Why Are You Still Catholic?

47 thoughts on “Why Are You Still Catholic?

  1. 1

    Greta said: “Belonging to the Catholic Church — giving them money, letting them count you in their rolls, sending your children to their schools — gives this behavior your personal thumbs-up, and actively enables it to continue.”
    Yes. I want to especially highlight the money part. That $20 you put on the collection plate goes directly to the church. (It’s not subject to taxes of any kind.) And the main thing the church needs money for is salaries. Your $20 pays these men’s wages who say the Mass, fill the “holy water” bin with tap water, and, when they wish, rape little children and get away with it.
    Some priests accused of child-rape have been moved to the Vatican to shield them from prosecution. And in these safe new Mediterranean lodgings they continue to collect a stipend. After all, what can the church do — throw them out on the street? That would be so cruel!

  2. 3

    I agree wholeheartedly that the acts of the church are evil. The child rape thing is viscerally repugnant, and the opposition to contraception is staggering in its promotion of human suffering (through disease and poverty).
    However, it is not the case that one must either shut up and accept these things or leave the church. There are organizations out there working from *within* the Catholic church for reform. Here are a couple: Catholics for a Changing Church and Catholics for Choice.
    And, just to be clear before people jump on me as “supporting” the church: I don’t think the church is a net positive influence on the world. I am not and have never been a Catholic. I would dearly love to see the pope imprisoned for his participation in the child rape business.
    I’m just saying that your rhetoric sets up a false dichotomy for catholics.

  3. 4

    I love your post. When I try to bring this up with Catholics, they often say, but the church has enacted reforms in the US! Children in the US in venues run by the Catholic church are perfectly safe, and diocese are organized such that we don’t have power over other places!!
    To which I can only shake my head and point to articles documenting sending rapists and molesters to third world countries and/or disadvantaged communities in order to hide them among those who won’t complain.
    Plus… even in the US the church is actively fighting certain reforms, such as lengthening the statute of limitations on child abuse and such.

  4. 5

    Timothy: I don’t agree that it’s a false dichotomy. Yes, Catholics can protest and fight for change from within — but the Church knows perfectly well that they aren’t going anywhere, that they’re going to keep giving money and letting their names be counted in the rolls and (shudder) sending their kids to their schools. So they don’t have to give a damn. The complaints are just irritating noise. There’s no accountability.
    And besides… when it comes to the moral horror the Catholic Church has perpetuated and continues to perpetuate, the “working for change from within” defense rings awfully hollow. Again I sing the refrain: If your school/ softball league/ charitable organization were shown to have perpetuated child rape on a massive institutional scale, and responded when this was exposed with stonewalling and rationalizing and deflecting blame — or indeed, with anything other than abject, grovelling, desperate apologies — would you say, “Yes, but there are so many good things about the organization, so I’m going to work for reform from the inside”? Or would you consider that response grotesquely inadequate? Would you decide that some crimes are unforgivable? Would you do anything other than leave in revulsion?
    And if not — then why should Catholics behave any differently with the Catholic Church?

  5. 6

    Thanks for posting this expanded version. On the topic of the charity work, I always find it weird that some religious people want to give credit to their religion for the charity work that is done but then don’t want anyone to point out the poor quality of it (such as false information given to the people being helped and so on).
    If religion gets credit for the good then it should also get the blame for the bad.

  6. 7

    I’m not a Catholic; I am an atheist. Yet, my family are all Catholics. I feel pretty certain that, if I printed out this blog entry and sent it to them, they wouldn’t leave the Catholic church. They’d leave ME. I truly believe that. What a shame that your powerful words are probably more often than not preached to the choir, so to speak.

  7. 8

    My immediate reaction is to agree with this wholeheartedly. On the other hand, that’s all too easy for me, because I’ve always been an atheist, so I’ve never had the experience of being deeply emotionally invested in a church.
    I am, however, invested in my identity as an American. The American government has done things over the course of its history as bad, and worse, than what the Catholic Church has done in this case. Arguably, it has done things as bad or worse within my lifetime. I haven’t renounced my American citizenship yet, and even if it were pragmatically possible to do so, I wouldn’t. I don’t think I’m obligated to allow wicked or foolish people to define what it means to be American, even if those people happen to be running the country at any given moment. I can understand, at some level, how a Catholic would feel the same way about the Church.

  8. 9

    @ tilts-at-windmills:
    Where would you go, anyway, to get away from governmental corruption and evil? The moon? Virtually every government of every nation is guilty of some sort of barbaric or corrupt acts — some well known, some secret, and some even arguably necessary at the time (or at least controversial). I’d say that it’s endemic to the species, so you might as well try to work with the government you’ve got, if it’s not completely hopeless; the only alternative seems to be to leave this planet completely.
    I see your point, however, and that does help to give the matter some extra perspective for me. If a person defines himself or herself largely as a Catholic, then leaving that is not the same thing as leaving a softball team or any other type of organization; it first involves setting yourself apart from that organization even just to look at it as something separate from yourself, which is darned hard to do if it has always been a core part of your own identity, on par with such labels as “American” or “heterosexual” or “chocolate lover.” If you’ve always thought of that as just an element of your own identity, then the idea of leaving it would be hard to even grasp, let alone commit.
    @ Greta:
    I forwarded this post of yours onto my Facebook page, and so far the response from my Catholic friends has been one of blanket denial of the problem — even from one who supposedly gave up Catholicism ages ago and had even spoken of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular as a “death cult,” and who has now chided me for “Catholic bashing” by bringing up a couple of your blogs on this issue. Bizarre. People’s core identities (whether natural or indoctrinated) evidently run very deep.
    ~David D.G.

  9. 10

    tilts-at-windmills: Damn, I wish I’d addressed this in my expanded version, as it’s an argument many people made when this was first published on AlterNet.
    I’m sorry, but I’m not buying the argument. Mainly because, as Americans, we can vote — we can hold our government directly accountable when they behave terribly, by voting them out of office. The Catholic Church is not a democracy. The only way to hold them accountable is by leaving.
    (Also, leaving one’s country is, quite literally, not always an option: you have to find a country who’ll take you, and not everyone can do that.)
    David D.G.: When you say that the response of your Catholic friends has been blanket denial… do you mean they’re denying the basic facts, as reported by multiple reliable news sources for years? If so, that’s both disheartening and bizarre — as EVEN THE FREAKING CATHOLIC CHURCH ITSELF is not denying the basic facts. They’re just coming up with an appalling assortment of defenses and rationalizations of those facts, from “Everyone else does it too” to “It’s the fault of the gays.” Tell that to your Catholic friends. (Not that it will make any difference. Sheesh.)

  10. 12

    The other way that the country/government analogy doesn’t work is the fact that most governments run on many different competing powers and ideologies (especially democratic governments). A more appropriate analogy is someone remaining Republican becaue it’s supposedly about “responsibility” and “minimal government”, when these days it just seems bat-shit crazy.
    I’ll also point out that this “change from within” rubbish rings a bit hollow from the point of civic responsibility.
    I mean, there’s been one big fight against catholic authority corruption a couple hundred years ago (aka the Reformation) and not much since. Nothing even remotely like the civil upheavals that people will commit to in the name of civil liberties, workers’ rights, and anti-slavery (hello, the US is no saint among nations, but to my knowledge, it’s the only country that fought a bloody civil war to bring a bunch of slavers to heel!)
    Anyway, so ok, you can’t leave the church because it’s part of your identity or something. Fair enough. But where are the mass protests, the sit-ins in front of the vatican, etc?
    A canadian prime minister has been pied once (or I tink it actually happened twice -can’t remember) but never have I heard of a single tomato thrown at the pope!

  11. 13

    My facetious answer (I’m not and never have been Catholic):
    I hope one day to become Pope. The anti-rape, pro-condom, and pro-rationality Pope.
    A guy can dream, right?
    (Actually, this suddenly raises, for me, a genuine-ish troubling question — is there a possible alternate universe where the Pope takes a hard line on the abuse? Really? I sort of imagine that the vast majority of possible-Popes only do what they can to preserve the Church. I mean, we’re talking about the Catholic Church here. It’s an entranched creepy-old-man-ocracy. Maybe that renders moot all criticism of its actual leaders, who never could have been anything but creepy evil men?
    Meh, scratch all that. For what I hope are obvious reasons.)

  12. 14

    And I may be mistaken, but wasn’t the Reformation kind of motivated by the Church losing members to the Protestant sects (which had at that point gained enough members/power/royal supporters that the Church could no longer just Smash with Hammer to stop it anymore?) No one has ever really reformed the CC from within–the only thing that has ever motivated any kind of reform attempt was the loss of membership!
    Ya know what? I do a lot of bitching about my supremely annoying woo-ist mom and her incredible blinders, but this is one thing I have to commend her on. Once she finally realized that this was not just “a few bad apples” but a major problem that was being funded/protected/encouraged by the the actions of a completely informed Church, she hightailed it out of there and didn’t look back. And all that money she used to put in the plate? She puts it into an envelope now and donates it to children’s hospitals and animal shelters instead.
    Seriously, there is no good the CC does that isn’t done every bit as well by some other source–in fact, done better, considering the other organizations have accountability and don’t protect/encourage child rape.

  13. 15

    Demonhype wrote:
    “And I may be mistaken, but wasn’t the Reformation kind of motivated by the Church losing members to the Protestant sects (which had at that point gained enough members/power/royal supporters that the Church could no longer just Smash with Hammer to stop it anymore?) No one has ever really reformed the CC from within–the only thing that has ever motivated any kind of reform attempt was the loss of membership!”
    That was certainly Martin Luther’s experience – he tried reform from within (having been ordained as a Roman Catholic monk and also a university professor of theology).
    But Luther was forced to leave the church as a result of his views.
    What happened next was a confluence of religious trends, cultural trends, and technology trends.
    Religiously, there were concerns over Catholic doctrines and abuses of power like the selling of indulgences.
    Culturally, the rise of nationalism in Europe led to organizations that could be effective rivals to the Catholic Church.
    From a technology point of view, the invention of movable type in 15th century was analogous to the role that the Internet plays today. The printing press allowed everybody to read the Bible and develop their own opinions about religion. Prior to the printing press, books were both rare and expensive. Eventually, the Bible was translated into everyday languages like German and English which allowed even more opportunities for individuals to discern their own opinions about religion. And Martin Luther’s 95 Theses were posted on a church door in a University town (their version of Facebook). Luther’s hand-written version was taken down and reproduced by printing press which resulted in it “going viral.”
    And that led to the previous unified Western European Christianity fracturing into hundreds of smaller groups that we call “Protestant” today.

  14. 16

    This is an issue that the church has been dealing with since the times of St. Basil the Great (330-379). Opposed to the current church, he was against child rape. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is some kind of recruiting tool for a new generation of priests

  15. 17

    I was raised Roman Catholic, though I’ve never self-identified as such and have been a positive atheist since i was 18, but both my parents were members of the RCC until somewhat recently.
    My father switched to the schismatic branch of the RCC that disavows Vatican II. This was at the time that Bernard Law was getting into the news for his part in the child rape, and Dad did make some oblique comments about not wanting to support Law. My mother remained with their previous parish out of loyalty to the head priest there, who seems to have been a genuinely good person, despite being a Catholic priest, and joined my dad at his new church when he retired.
    So, at this point, they have both left the organization that’s publicly declared support for child rape, while at the same time claiming to be part of the Catholic Church. This is a bit like the “making reforms from the inside” solution, but actually effective in having removed support, so that’s good, and (other problems with christianity notwithstanding) I think declaring Pope Palpatine and the other supporters as no longer being real Catholics is a legitimate response that answers Greta’s objection.
    On the other hand, this other church wasn’t formed as a response to the child rape. It was formed in objection to Vatican II’s (relative) modernization of the RCC and in particular claims that there hasn’t been a real pope in 60 years because the main RCC switched to using an invalid procedure for making bishops.
    So, my rather meandering point is that Catholics can keep the name Catholic as long as they stop supporting the child rapists, but I really wish they made it clear that the problem was in fact the child rape, and not “How dare you cave in to those feminists and start casting your Make-Bishop spells from Second Edition Players Handbook?!”

  16. 18

    Dan, if I been drinking milk at the same time as I read the end of your comment, I’d be asking you to buy me a new laptop.
    I think maybe the religion D&D analogy has some legs.

  17. 19

    @ DSimon: and a bit of Star Wars too.
    But I just remembered that I wanted to say more about this issue:
    1) Yes countries and governments can be extremely corrupt and oppressive, but you also see massive change in very short periods. I’m not asking 100%, just big enough to notice.
    As to wanting to change the church from within: ok, but you won’t do it without a mojor shit-storm, which is really I think what Greta’s point is here. A bit of non-abusive charity and some quiet huffing & puffing just doesn’t cut it. At least organize some protests!
    2) Re: charity. I would like to point out that much of the charity the church does, even the completely sincere, non-abusive charity, wouldn’t be neccessary if the catholic higher-ups would keep their creepy noses out of politics.
    Further, saying that at least this organization, which is guilty of not only masssive child rape and coverups of said rape, but also a long list of other crimes, does some nice charity work, is like saying at least Musolini supported (some of)his country’s arts culture…

  18. 20

    I’d love to oblige, but I left the Church long ago before any of this even came out.
    I’m not sure whether I’d rather be able to say I’ve left the Church in protest over this, or that I saw through them before it was obvious they were morally bankrupt. Either way, I’m stuck with the latter.

  19. 21

    I would argue this:
    1:500 Priests rape children. This is an established fact.
    1:120 Public School Teachers rape children. This is also an established fact.
    So why do you still pay taxes and support the Democrats giving money for public schools?
    I do because the institution is NOT equal to the sum of it’s parts, or even equal to the few teachers or priests that as you put it, get away with raping children.

  20. 22

    @Theodore Seeber:
    If it turned out that schools were regularly hiding paedophiles – that is, as soon as they found out that a teacher was molesting students, they promptly did their very best to shut everybody up about it – there’d be a riot. If it turned out that in every level of the government, from principals to school boards to state governors or provincial premiers right up to the head of state had in some way been concealing it, I genuinely believe there would be a revolution.
    But there hasn’t been. And why? Because when a school discovers one of their teachers is a kiddy fiddler, they fire him/her and turn him/her over to the police. If there are any who are hiding it, it’s not a problem that’s endemic to the entire system. And to drive the point home, schools are not claiming to be the representatives of God’s will on Earth, and thereby qualified to pass moral judgement on the whole of humanity.
    There are some things you can’t help, but you can always help how you react to them. The Catholic Church as an institution has reacted in a morally bankrupt way to a problem within its ranks, and as such it opens itself to criticism. It’s decided that the “Universal Church” is more valuable than protecting children from sexual predators. That is all there is to it.

  21. 23

    Theodore: There is one huge problem with your argument. And that’s that the public school system does not, as a widespread institutional culture reaching all the way to the top, protect teachers who rape children from exposure and law enforcement; deliberately move said teachers from school district to school district so they can continue to rape more children; keep known child-raping teachers in the school system because there’s such a shortage of teachers; deliberately dump teachers known to rape children onto remote and impoverished school districts with little or no access to police; etc., etc., etc. And when child-raping teachers are discovered and exposed, the public school system does not react with systematic stonewalling, rationalizing, and the deflection of blame onto gays, the media, Satan, the children who were raped, etc.
    All of which the Catholic Church has done, and continues to do.
    You are entirely missing the point of this scandal. The scandal is not that some priests rape children, or even that a lot of priests rape children. That is a tragedy — but it is not the scandal. The scandal is that the Church systematically and institutionally protected these priests, kept them in positions where they could continue to rape children, and refused to accept any responsibility for what happened.

  22. 24

    The scandal is not that some priests rape children, or even that a lot of priests rape children. That is a tragedy — but it is not the scandal. The scandal is that the Church systematically and institutionally protected these priests, kept them in positions where they could continue to rape children, and refused to accept any responsibility for what happened.

    How many times must we repeat this until it’s understood?
    Also, citation needed re: your numbers.

  23. 25

    I’m new to your blog, and a little late to this conversation. But I think I want to send this to my aunt and uncle who are now newly devout Catholics and get their opinions. I also want to send it to my mom who would probably consider this a wonderful article that would make her think about her “church.” I doubt it will make her reconsider her position though.
    I went to a Jesuit University, I grew up in the church, and now I can’t seem to be able to grasp any of the concepts.
    I wish I could answer this, but all this article did was pretty much cement my decision to no longer consider the Catholic Church as “my church”

  24. 26

    Interesting read but the basic problem with the arguments put in this blog article can be summarised by ‘Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water’.
    If I found my school, Scouts or local sports club was doing what the Catholic church has been/is doing in not being through enough or consistent enough in digging out and exposing child abuse I wouldn’t leave those organisations.
    Geeze that’s the last thing I would do, as that is effectively abandoning the kids in those organisations to more abuse. Surely the more correct thing to do is to work from within those organisations to make them better and change the people in the senior levels as well?
    Now of course there are lots of other reasons not to be part of the catholic church (like not believing in God!), but that’s of course is quite a different reason.
    There is a certain point where voting with our feet can cause more problems than not.

  25. 27

    I am a Catholic and not really surprised by any of the comments posted here. A large transnational organization is going to problems developing a coherent response to a series of events most of which occurred decades ago when notions of “treatment” for such persons were very different from what they are now. Anyone familiar with the history of the Catholic Church can point out the cyclical nature of “crises”, including sexual scandals, that have plagued the institution. This is more of a reflection on the problems of human nature, than of any sinister institutional proclivity. Any reasoning Catholic, as well as non-Catholic must take account of the fact that the vast majority of priests DO NOT behave in such a way, that the “institution” may have a number of conflicting reasons for its awkward and convoluted response to the “crisis”, and that much good continues to be done by both religious and non-religious institutions alike. Your blog is extremely tendentious and lacks any notion of the historical and varied legal dimensions of this problem. Better luck next time.

  26. 28

    Dr. Keith J. Lepak: You say “the vast majority of priests DO NOT behave in such a way” again trying to rationalize and put a bit of a positive spin on the whole thing. But you seem to forget that within that vast majority who DO NOT rape children there is a vast majority (including Herr Ratzinger himself) who DID know of those who raped children and hushed up the fact in a concerted effort to cover it up. Your twisted and patronizing response to Greta’s razor-sharp logic is anemic at best. Better luck next time.

  27. 29

    One does not need to leave the Catholic Church, you can just switch to a more progressive Catholic Church. And many have.
    The Anglican Church (at least here in Canada) allows women to be priests and now bishops, and priests can marry. The anglican church is basically what the Roman Catholic church will be in 200 – 500 years.
    You don’t live in the middle ages, neither should your church.
    Visit the Anglican Church “The other Catholic Church”.

  28. 30

    As of October 2010, the countmeout.ie website has suspended their process, due to changes by the Church in how they process the requests.
    You may want to update the post to note this.

  29. 31

    Matthew 16:
    (12)…And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, (13) and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
    The Church is the most centralized thing in Christianity. Ok, so I skimmed this article at best and got some of the main points, but that is my main argument. Every denomination and church has its flaw. No man or woman born on this Earth is perfect for we are all susceptible to sin. Jesus said that the powers of Hell won’t overtake the church, but that doesn’t mean the devil can’t get a hold on anyone inside. Pope John Paul II’s only regret while he was pope was not dealing with this in a better and more direct way. Even though it may not seem like it, the Church works tirelessly on this issue.
    As for the one who mentioned the Anglican Church, you realize that church was founded by someone who couldn’t keep his zipper up? Well ok, he wanted a son, but still, he wasn’t the best of kings.
    To me, you should be asking people: Why are you Christian?

  30. Leo

    Luke A: Our problem with Christianity is that it’s wrong as a matter of fact. We argue against it, and will let people be if they disagree.
    Our problem with Catholicism is that it serves an organization that condones child rape. I will not share my universe with that. Every denomination has its flaws, but most don’t have “condoning child rape” in their minuses columns.
    And, er, Greta Christina’s readership probably doesn’t consider “Its founder wanted to divorce” a point against the Anglican church.

  31. 34

    I’m an atheist myself, but just to play “Devil’s Advocate” here: you know, some Catholics truly believe that if they leave the Catholic Church, they will spend all eternity burning in the firestorms of hell. Assuming that such people can’t be convinced otherwise (which, let’s face it, is usually the case), what are they supposed to do?

  32. 35

    Unfortunately they shut the count-me-out door. Probably too many people were leaving. There are still ways to get automatically excommunicated but unfortunately more than half of those only apply to priests.

  33. 37

    1:500 Priests rape children. This is an established fact.
    1:120 Public School Teachers rape children. This is also an established fact.

    @Theodore Seeber

    Where do you get these “established facts”?

  34. 38

    ‘Matthew 16:
    (12)…And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, (13) and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
    The Church is the most centralized thing in Christianity.’

    I have never understood how catholics get this to mean their church is the one and only when essentially the same message is repeated a few verses down to every believer. The believers are the church not some rule setting organization. In context the RCC version doesn’t make any sense.

  35. 39

    For those who talk about reforming the Catholic Church from within, you don’t understand how the Church operates. Pope Benny Ratzi, like his predecessors, is a firm believer in “one man, one vote.” Benny is the man and he has the only vote.

  36. 40

    Dr. Keith J. Lepak wrote:

    I am a Catholic and not really surprised by any of the comments posted here.

    Well, I’d like to think people’s reactions to an institution-wide cover-up and facilitating of child rape would be fairly predictable.

    Anyone familiar with the history of the Catholic Church can point out the cyclical nature of “crises”, including sexual scandals, that have plagued the institution. This is more of a reflection on the problems of human nature, than of any sinister institutional proclivity.

    I don’t see why I should accept that explanation. There are plenty of organizations throughout history–even those with little regard for human rights–that have not tolerated, let alone tried to cover up, the kind of scandals that the Catholic Church has undergone. Frankly, I’m much inclined “the cyclical nature of ‘crises'” affecting the Catholic Church are due to its being, by its very nature, rotten to the core since its inception. You certainly don’t get to hand-wave away this whole schemozzle by claiming “ah well, Catholic clergy are only human” for the very simple reason that the Catholic church derives its claim to moral authority from the fact that its clergy are ostensibly not “merely human” but are, by dint of being ordained, authorized to act in the stead of Jesus Christ the Son. You can’t have it both ways: either Catholic clergy are the direct representatives of God on Earth–a claim from which they draw their supposed authority–and may thus be held to a higher standard than humanity in general; or they are just as human as the rest of us, in which case the Catholic Church has no more moral authority than, say, a state DMV.

    Your blog is extremely tendentious and lacks any notion of the historical and varied legal dimensions of this problem. Better luck next time.

    In contrast to your professed lack of surprise, I am surprised at your response. What “historical and varied legal dimensions” could possibly justify the Catholic Church’s behavior with regard to this scandal? What “historical and varied legal dimensions” could possibly make raping a child be anything other than wrong (even leaving aside the fact, according to the Catholic Church itself, its ordained ministers aren’t supposed to stick their dick in anyone, let alone a non-consenting minor of the same sex), and consequently covering up such behavior and indeed facilitating it by transferring the offender to another position where he can carry on his activities with less chance of being caught be anything other than wrong? And what kind of shitty excuse for a human being do you have to be to even try to argue that?

    As Greta Christina rightly analogized, would you tolerate it if the Red Cross, or the Peace Corps, or Medecins Sans Frontières turned out to have not only have been shielding child rapists among their ranks, but actively facilitating their continuing their nefarious activities? Would you accept that the good work these organizations do not merely mitigated but more than compensated for the harm they had inflicted in the process? If not, why does the Catholic Church get a pass?

  37. 41

    This is one of the most ridiculous articles I have ever read, but at the same time I’m not surprised something like this was published.

    Throughout the entire article, they keep referring to the sex/child abuse scandal. There is a myriad of scandalous reports of politicians committing sexual acts, but the party or organization they belong to isn’t to blame, they (as individuals) are to blame.

    So why do you keep blaming the church? Blame the priest who did the act.

    At some point, every single person in the world has thought about having a significant other and a family of their own. It is only human. It only makes sense that priest feel the same way, don’t you think they wished they had someone to love? A family of their own?

    You may argue that, before they became priest, they took the vowel of celibacy and obedience and by doing an act on infidelity is going against their vowel as a priest.

    The last time I checked, courthouses process divorce papers by the millions. So what makes it okay for couples to break their vowel of marriage, but when a priest breaks their vowels the CHURCH is to blame.

    Don’t blame the church blame the individual.

  38. 42

    Nelly, it appears that you did not understand the article. As is addressed in earlier comments, the scandal isn’t the priests raping children, it’s that the church is protecting those priests — and for that, we most certainly can blame the church, even as we also blame the priests for their behavior.

    As for this: “It only makes sense that priest feel the same way, don’t you think they wished they had someone to love? A family of their own?”

    Two things: first, they chose to go into the priesthood, and they are free to leave it at any time they wish if having a family is important to them. Second, though, and more importantly — we’re not talking about “having someone to love”, here, we’re talking about child rape. Equating the two is beyond appalling.

    Please reread the article and see whether you can understand what Greta is saying.

    P.S. The word you’re trying to use is “vows”, not “vowels”. If you don’t know the difference, then it’s hardly surprising that you also appear to have a serious reading comprehension problem.

  39. 43


    Don’t blame the church blame the individual.

    -You know what, you’re right. We shouldn’t blame the church for the actions of those despicable child rapists. The blame should go on those despicable child rapists for their actions.
    We should blame the church for the *cover up* of the actions performed by those despicable child rapists.
    We should blame the church for reassigning priests so they wouldn’t have to face prosecution.
    We should blame the church for not cooperating with the authorities.
    We should blame the church for not speaking up against these atrocities (which is the greatest height of irony, that the church positions itself as some great arbiter of moral authority, speaking out against gay marriage and condom use…yet they fail to condemn child rape).
    Yes, there’s more than enough the church should be blamed for. I feel anyone who is Catholic should be ashamed to be part of such a vile organization.

  40. 44


    Assuming that such people can’t be convinced otherwise (which, let’s face it, is usually the case), what are they supposed to do?

    -Continue living their life with the hope of going to heaven while simultaneously not caring about the rampant child rape within their organization I suppose. I guess for some believers, their salvation is more important than children being raped.

  41. 45

    I do accept as true with all the ideas you’ve introduced in your post. They are really convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are too short for starters. Could you please extend them a bit from next time? Thank you for the post.

  42. 46

    I realize this is an old post, but this recent bit of news is quite relevant:

    Damning statistics revealed at abuse inquiry

    Disturbing new claims against the catholic church have emerged from an academic saying one in 20 priests in Melbourne are child abusers.

    AT LEAST one in 20 Catholic priests in Melbourne is a child sex abuser, although the real figure is probably one in 15, the state inquiry into the churches’ handling of sex abuse was told yesterday.

    RMIT professor Des Cahill said his figures, based on analysing conviction rates of priests ordained from Melbourne’s Corpus Christi College, closely matched a much larger American analysis of 105,000 priests which found that 4362 were child sex offenders.

    The intercultural studies professor also told the inquiry that the Catholic Church was incapable of reforming itself because of its internal culture. He said the Church’s Melbourne Response abuse protocol had to go, and the state would have to intervene to achieve it.

    In other key testimony, Professor Cahill:

    Called for married priests, as are being allowed now in the Anglican ordinariate within the Catholic Church, as a “circuit-breaker” that would reduce child sex abuse. The state should remove the Equal Opportunity Act exemption letting the church discriminate on grounds of marital status, he said.
    Described the Church as “a holy and unholy mess, except where religious sisters or laypeople are in charge, for example schools and welfare agencies”.
    Called for an “eminent Catholic task force” of lay people to work with the Church on reform and transparency.
    Said other religions were not immune from child sex abuse, including credible anecdotal evidence of two incidents within Melbourne’s Hindu community where the offending monks were “shipped back to the home country”.

    Professor Cahill said that 14 of 378 Corpus Christi priests graduating between 1940 and 1966 were convicted of child sexual abuse, and church authorities had admitted that another four who had died were also abusers, a rate of 4.76 per cent.

    But the actual figure was much higher when under-reporting was taken into account, along with cases dealt with in secret by the Catholic Church. “One in 20 is a minimum. It might be one in 15, perhaps not as high as one in 10,” he said.

    He suggested that, though the Church tried to “fudge the figures” by including other church workers, Catholic priests offended at a much higher rate than other men. If the general male population now over 65 offended at the same rate, there would be 65,614 men living in Australia who had been convicted of child sex abuse — very far from the case.

    Professor Cahill said the Church’s “culture of caste clericalism” and its pyramid structure rendered it incapable of the systemic reform needed. The organisational culture was “verging on the pathological”.

    “Bishops are caught between canon law and civil law, and Rome has put a lot of pressure on bishops to make sure canon law and the rights of priests are being observed, but canon law has nothing to say about the rights of child victims,” he said.

  43. 47

    The reason why I still call myself a Catholic, albeit a lapsed one who never goes to church, is because of history. Because it connects one to one’s ancestors, and to the history of Europe.
    To say that that makes me complicit in child molestation is nonsense, especially as the scale of the abuse is generally exaggerated, motivated clearly enough by traditional Protestant anti-Catholic bigotry, which, in this country, has always been a problem.
    You’re writing as though every single priest is a child molester. That is absurd. You’re writing as though it doesn’t take place in Protestant and Orthodox churches. Well, it does.
    This rationale, that one should leave the Church because it has many things wrong with it, is a stupid one. By that logic, you should renounce your citizenship of your country, because of the many terrible actions of your government.
    There is nothing inherent in the Catholic church which produces child molestation. However, it is inherently authoritarian, like all the Abrahamic religions, and I think that’s a much more fruitful line of criticism than this slightly hysterical article.

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